“I’m really appreciative of some of the stuff he did for me,” Shanahan told Cleveland reporters Thursday, “and I really believe he’ll be appreciative of some of the stuff I did for him.”
Shanahan was introduced as the Browns’ offensive coordinator and the topic of his relationship with Griffin did not come up until late in the news conference. When it did, Shanahan said a couple times how tough it was just going through a 3-13 season and how it challenged their relationship.
The topic also arose in his initial interview with the Browns. Teams wanted to know about what happened in Washington, especially late in the season when one negative story after another leaked.
“When it was all said and done and we heard about it, it was nothing that I felt reflected poorly on Kyle,” Browns coach Mike Pettine told the Cleveland media.
And Shanahan talked to Pettine and others in the organization about Griffin’s second-year struggles.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to be assured [about it],” Pettine said. “He opened up about it and talked about it at length. It was something that I didn’t think was an issue at all. He was very passionate about it and he talked about the relationship in similar terms.”
Shanahan, who had not spoken publicly since being fired in Washington, told the media that he was proud of his two years together with Griffin.
“He arguably had one of the best years in NFL history for a rookie quarterback,” Shanahan said. “I enjoyed coaching him. I had to do some things I hadn’t done before. I had to look at tape in a different way to put some things in. That improved myself. I’m able to see the game a little differently. I was able to do some things with Robert that I hadn’t been able to do with other quarterbacks. It was really fun to do.”
But Shanahan said Griffin’s injury made for a challenging second season. Then came a disastrous season.
“You go through a 3-13 season and it’s a challenge on your relationship,” Shanahan said. “It’s a challenge with everyone in the building. You’ve got to deal with a lot of stuff, a lot of negativity and the thing I learned going through that, especially with a high-profile guy, there’s a lot more stuff that comes out and the thing I always did with him that we did with each other, when stuff would come out we’d address it and talk about it and make sure we felt good about it. Robert and I … we managed to keep our relationship through the year. I’m not going to say it was easy. Nothing’s easy when you go through something like that, but I do believe going through it in the long run will make both of us better. Going through that, as hard as it was, will help me.”